Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Man to Dramaturgy: Bruce Guthrie @ Traverse

Polly Thomas (photo credit)
A Wales Millennium Centre production
Man to Man
By Manfred Karge
Translated by Alexandra Wood
A modern German fairy tale
Opens in Cardiff September 2017 prior to UK tour and playing at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), New York as part of the Next Wave Festival

This acclaimed one woman play tells the life story of a woman called Ella Gericke, who lived with her husband Max until one day he died. Then the Nazis arrived…
Based on an incredible true story, we witness Ella's struggle and determination in a volatile 20th century Germany where she adopts the identity of her dead husband to survive.

Polly Thomas (photo credit) 

What was the inspiration for this performance?

Inspiration always starts with the play itself. I first learnt of the play when I was reading a book written by director Stephen Unwin. He mentioned a play he had directed Tilda Swinton in at the Traverse Theatre called Man to Man. It sounded like an extraordinary play and I was looking for a play I could direct my wife in.  I got a hold of the script and was utterly intrigued by the story of this woman who assumed her husband’s identity. It reminded me of epic poems like The Odyssey or The Wasteland.

I was also drawn to the fairy-tale aspect of the play. It is littered with quotations from great works of German literature so they played a big role in our creative discussions. Also, what it was like to be a working class German during the time of the Wiemar Republic. The cinema and the artwork of that culture during the 20th century were also major sources of inspiration.

Maggie and I spent time in Germany and visited several theatres including the Berliner Ensemble – where it was first performed in German 1982. Manfred Karge (the playwright) met us in the courtyard of the Berliner and talked to us about his inspiration for the play. He was incredibly generous with his time and his insights were a vital part of us understanding the essence of his play.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

Absolutely. The ability to be able to explore the world from the point of view of others is vitally important to our growth as a species. Telling stories and learning from each other is a part of who we are as humans. Our constant self analysis through art is the most effective arena for us to engage on an intellectual and emotional level with issues that may otherwise be taboo. They allow us to be at a distance and yet involved. 

I believe, it is important for a play to present a set of circumstances and how characters react to those circumstances rather than to preach. It is all about the audience experience.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I saw Joseph and the Amazing Tehnicoloured Dreamcoat at the Edinburgh Playhouse when I was nine years old. From then I was obsessed with being involved with theatre. I trained as an actor but switched to directing when I found myself more interested in telling stories from the outside than the pressures of being an actor.

I admire actors above all other people in theatre. The great ones give up a little piece of themselves with every performance they give. It is a gift not to be underestimated.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

I like to think I am a collaborator. I want people’s ideas and the best idea can come from anywhere.

I am through with my research about the history and around the themes of the play.  Research is one of the most fun parts of any new project because you are constantly learning. Rehearsal is like that too because you have several imaginations in the one space focused on the same thing.

I am incredibly proud of the work the whole team has done on Man to Man. I feel this production is the best example of the way I like to work. The entire team has had input into every aspect of the production.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

I hope my work is as varied as my taste but I think this show represents a bit of a departure from my earlier work. It is more bold and fragmented than other work I have done. However, I think my work as a director is evolving in a way I find exciting. Thankfully audiences seem to enjoy it. I am all about getting a great group of creative people in a room and we make the show together. It will be different every time. That is exciting.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

I hope they will be engaged and enthralled for the whole play. It is an absorbing 75 minute piece that challenges and entertains. But beyond that I think it’s up to them. Man to Man is an incredible story. It has moments of beauty, terror, comedy, loss and suspense. We want our audiences to see the world from a different point of view. Alexandra Wood’s translation is beautiful, bold and fragmented. She trusts the audience to make the connections between the fractured memories of our main protagonist.

Polly Thomas (photo credit)

Man to Man is a striking and spellbinding modern fairy tale inspired by the traditions of German storytelling. 
It gives audiences an incredible insight into what life was like in 20th century Germany, including the radical changes of the Nazi’s rise to power, the Cold War and the Berlin Wall coming down.
Renowned as one of the UK’s leading presenting houses, Wales Millennium Centre has recently embarked on producing work with the intention of taking the very best made in Wales to the world. 

As one of our first productions, Man to Man demonstrates the bold ambition of Wales Millennium Centre as a national home to the performing arts – to Inspire our Nation and Impress the World.
Translated by award-winning playwright, Alexandra Wood, this new version unites the talents of a multi-Olivier and Tony award-winning creative team, led by directors Bruce Guthrie (Director of RENT the Musical & The Last Mermaid) and Scott Graham (Artistic Director of Frantic Assembly and Movement Director of Olivier-winning West End/Broadway production The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time).

Polly Thomas (photo credit)

Bruce Guthrie, said: "Man to Man is a series of fragmented memories that our protagonist Ella is remembering and  re-living. She is a working class character with no sense of self pity: a hero in many ways who finds herself having to make life and death choices on a daily basis.  I found that compelling when I first read the script. It is a familiar yet alien world. This version is about taking the audience on a sensory journey, evoking different reactions based on the series of potent memories explored.”
Maggie Bain, whose credits include Emma Rice's A Midsummer Night's Dream at Shakespeare's Globe, gives a tour de force performance in this beautiful, thought provoking production.

Man to Man
By Manfred Karge
Translated by Alexandra Wood

Performed by Maggie Bain
Directed by Bruce Guthrie & Scott Graham
Design by Richard Kent
Lighting Design by Rick Fisher
Sound Design by Mike Walker
Video Design by Andrzej Goulding
Music by Matthew Scott
Produced by Pádraig Cusack

‘Wales Millennium Centre’s licence to present Manfred Karge’s MAN TO MAN is granted by Rosica Colin Limited, London, by arrangement with henschel SCHAUSPIEL, Berlin.’ 
Age Guidance: 14+ (Contains strong language and adult themes)


Manfred Karge's Man to Man 2017

Edinburgh - Traverse theatre                  
Oct 11 - 14
On sale date:
Monday, August 21 - 0131 228 1404

Newcastle - Northern Stage             
Oct 17 - 18
On sale Mon 5th June to members, on sale Thurs 15th June to general public - 0191 230 5151

Liverpool - Everyman Theatre
Oct 25 - 28
On sale soon - 0151 709 4776

New York - Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)
Nov 7 - 11
On sale date:
Monday, August 7
Polly Thomas (photo credit)

Wales Millennium Centre
    Wales Millennium Centre is a landmark arts venue and a cultural destination, opened by Her Majesty the Queen on November 28, 2004.
    Its founding mission was to bring the best of the world to Wales and to showcase the best of Wales to the world.
    Built at a cost of £106m, its construction was funded by Welsh Assembly Government (£37m) and the National Lottery (£41m) through the Millennium Commission (£31m) and Arts Council of Wales (£10m).
    The Centre is supported by Arts Council of Wales through an annual public investment grant which is less than 20% of its annual turnover. For every £1 received from the public purse an additional £4.50 is generated by its commercial activities and fundraising.
    Annually the Centre receives over 1.5 million visitors making it Wales’ number one visitor attraction.
    The Centre sustains up to 1000 jobs and contributes over £60m annually to the economy of Wales.
    The Centre is internationally recognised for its striking architecture and was recently declared a National Treasure by the National Lottery following a public vote.
    On its 7.5 acre site in Cardiff Bay, the Centre has a 1900 seat lyric theatre, named after its founding patron Sir Donald Gordon, designed for opera, large scale musicals, ballet and contemporary dance.
    Other performance spaces include a 250 seat studio theatre, a dance house, 350 seat recital hall and a state of the art recording facility, BBC Hoddinott Hall.
    Wales Millennium Centre is also home to eight other cultural organisations, including Welsh National Opera, BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Literature Wales, as well as inclusive arts organisation, Hijinx Theatre and the Touch Trust.
    It has been described by Lord Lloyd Webber as the best theatre built in the world in the last 50 years.
    For further information about the Centre please visit:
    Wales Millennium Centre is a registered charity, number – 1060458.

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